New Firewise community on Orcas

Fire Chief Mike Harris (far left) presenting the Firewise plaque to Westview Woods. - Colleen Armstrong photo
Fire Chief Mike Harris (far left) presenting the Firewise plaque to Westview Woods.
— image credit: Colleen Armstrong photo

The Westview Woods community on Orcas Island is the newest group to be part of the Firewise program.

A national organization, the Firewise Communities program is a multi-agency effort designed to reach beyond the fire service by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, and developers in the effort to protect people, property, and natural resources from the risk of wildland fire – before a fire starts. That includes keeping gutters clean, clearing dead brush, and maintaining vegetation. Each community has to write a five-year Firewise plan.

Fire Chief Mike Harris presented an award and the official designation to some of the homeowners last week, telling them they have improved their odds greatly for surviving a devastating fire.

“We thank you for doing this,” Harris said. “It helps us out as firefighters. It's not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when” you experience a fire. You increase your odds of having something to come home to when you are part of Firewise.”

Orcas resident Judith Leraas-Cook works for the national Firewise organization, and has helped get 24 communities in San Juan County certified in the program. San Juan County accounts for half of the firewise communities in Washington state.

For more information, call San Juan County Firewise Advisor Ron Garner at 378-7722.

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